02 January 2008

A Rant About Entitlement

Some people act like they're entitled to a certain standard of living, a certain child, or a certain material gain. To me it seems to be a version of that whole "American Dream" concept and the glass ceiling - but with a twist. The thing is, under certain unexpected circumstances, the privileged find themselves in a situation where one of their assumptions about how their life would turn out is not met. Rather than look at things as challenges or part of life, they look at it as an attack of their entitlement.

What spurred this rant?

The only part of Autism Every Day I laughted out loud was when that woman was complaining about her poor, leaking roof, where she had this elaborate setup to catch the water. Ha! Try not having running water and leaks so that when you need a bucket of water to wash your hair or do dishes you have to go outside in the rain and turn the water on, but you only have a few minutes and no heating and, hm, here's a thought, put a TARP over your roof.

Maybe that's harsh, and I don't think I particularly have any business levelling this claim of "whininess". I felt similarly to this when I read the book "Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting By in America".

The author, while well-intentioned, and I wouldn't criticize her motives, seemed to make a big deal out of difficulties that are part of the everyday living experience for myself and a large percentage of the human population. It almost had the undertone of "Let's pity these unfortunate poor people who must work for minimum wage."

I am familiar with the very real struggles of being poor, at varying levels, but there is a difference between someone who CANNOT feed themselves and their family, and someone who can but faces additional difficulties and cannot afford most of the amenities that many Americans seem to take for granted. In fact, many of the minimum-wage workers she worked alongside didn't have much interest in creating a (minor) revolution in the system, and got by fine. (Remember, we're talking minimum-wage, not below-means. Multiple jobs are sometimes just a fact of life.)

Of course, someone who's got things a lot worse than I do, if they read a life story of mine, would probably respond similarly "If she thinks this is tough..." And they'd be right in that.

So what is the usefulness of such a line of thought?

Often, those who have enough disposable income that they don't have to worry about not getting the kids fed, or about getting the rent paid on time, their concerns go to the expectation of their kids going to (a prestigious?) university, to get the kids driving at age 16, and all those other measures that society looks at for material success. People who aren't so focused on just surviving experience the added pressure of having an "ideal" family setup.

Not that the poorer parents would have any less difficulty raising an autistic child - more would be the standard fare, I'd presume. But the attitude that something is "missing" or that the child would somehow bring embarassment to the family's image just doesn't seem to be so rampant among people who just want to make sure their kids survive, rather than spending additional energy trying to get them "near-normal" or anything like that.

Maybe I'm wrong. And in any case, it would be just a trend, and trends never do tell anything especially useful for individuals, except as relating to the societal attitudes and how these may or may not impact. It would certainly explain some of the marketing strategies employed in videos such as Autism Every Day. If the largest dollar amount in donations is going to come from wealthy or semi-wealthy people, it would make sense to appeal to the expectations and fears of the upper-middle class. If the potential donors can identify with the prospect of the "horror" of having an "aberrant" child, then they'll probably identify with the goals and support them.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous Coward here. On the "Nickel and Dime" article, you are a little more conservative than I am. I would say that the folks who need multiple jobs would be ill-equipped to handle an autistic child, simply due to the state of medical coverage. That's one of the key issues that cannot be ignored. There does need to be a change in the system. Thanks for letting me post.

geosaru said...

Well, I wouldn't know much about medical coverage, having lacked it for most of my life. Most of my medical problems have been borderline mild enough that I have scraped by without much of it.

Of course, if both parents had to work, at the same time, then that would be a problem to raising an autistic child, as many sitters cannot be trusted to deal respectfully and capably with the child (my NT older sister faced a lot of injustice and ill-treatment at the hands of sitters; I can only imagine how a misunderstood autistic child would be treated by such a person -- of course, I am only talking about the "bad apple" sorts being abusive).

I do not, however, quite understand the comment about medical coverage. I know that autistics are more likely to have seizures, and possibly more likely to have gut issues, and others more likely to self-injure and require hospital care. I cannot, though, think of what medical costs cover the majority of the autistic population.

Perhaps there is an understanding of the word "medical" that I do not understand (i.e. maybe some support services fall under medical coverage -- I really don't know how the system works, considering that the system mostly ignored my needs up until the last few months).